Our culture has this idea that we have to pursue happiness; that happiness is a journey and we have to work really hard to get there. In reality, the feeling of happiness is not one that takes a lifetime to achieve. It is being aware of how you feel in the moment and adding in more pleasurable experiences. Happiness is a choice we make and it does take some work, but not the all the heavy lifting we may assume.
Can You Buy Happiness?
According to research, Americans spend upward of $8 billion every year on self-help programs and products. Wow! Low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, and feelings of self-deprecation can arise when we buy into the belief that something or someone will fix us and make us live a happy life. It is impossible to be happy all the time but you can be happier more often.
Being Happier in Bad Situations
Even in crummy situations, there are bits and pieces of happiness. After a terrible breakup, sitting at dinner a friend told me how unhappy she was. While it was true, that recently her life had been a series of upsetting events, I said, “Yes but sitting here eating these tacos seem to be making you happy.” She laughed and said, “Right now, I am happy.” Her mind was free for a few precious minutes of the misery.
Everyday stress, a loss, our hectic lives, a physical or mental health diagnosis can make happiness a difficult idea to fathom. However, instead of looking at it as a goal, an idea or need we are seeking out, what if we looked at it from a different perspective – “How am I feeling in the moment and what can I do to prolong this feeling and or feel this way later?” Life is not black and white and neither are our feelings. We have difficult days and difficult moments. No one is happy all the time and yet when we strive for this and are able to succeed, we feel worse about ourselves.
How To Be Happier More Often
Improve the moment. A pile of paperwork can make me want to avoid or hinder my mood. Adding a sweet treat or a warm cup of coffee help can help to improve my mood. Even providing moments of happiness when I notice the taste, smell, or sensation while I am hard at work can be pleasurable.
Distract. Feel those negative thoughts coming up or are you getting stuck in the past? Distract on purpose with something that you get sucked into, quieting your mind for a few minutes, keeping them from consuming your mind. A YouTube video, guided meditation, calling a friend, or playing a game on your smart phone may help.
Notice the little things you are grateful for in the moment. On a hot day, take note of your air conditioner, water, the fact that you are reading this on your computer and have internet access. As small as these may seem, they add up and can propel you into a happier mood.
Positive spin. A few months ago, I got stood up on a semi-blind date. For the first minute, I was fuming and went to a sad place. I questioned myself and noticed my confidence was taking a nose dive. Then, after no response or excuse from Mr. Wrong Guy, I took a different look at the situation. What a blessing in disguise! I am so happy I never met this person or became attached, or worse yet in a relationship with someone who is like this. I became grateful and happy for the seemingly unpleasant situation. Choose to see the silver lining.
Plan ahead. Remember it’s not just the experience of being at the party or event or dinner with friends, it’s about being in the moment. How are you feeling when you are thinking about going? Does it lift your mood?
Other Happiness Tips
- Be mindful
- Help someone, random acts of kindness
- Play with an animal or child
- Watch a funny video; I suggest anything on Ellen.com or a Saturday Night Live skit
- Call a friend or family member and have a conversation about their day
- Avoid negative people
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.